Do You Take Your Cats on Vacation with You?
We have two very dependent and needy little kittens, Freyja (nine months old) and Lucipurr or Luci (five months old). So we couldn't leave them all on their own for Christmas. We were headed about an hour out of town to the in-laws' place for Christmas this year, and they okayed us bringing the girls with us. We all knew there would be a challenge ahead traveling with cats, though, because a cat-loving older dog named Buffy and a huge two-year-old Maine Coon mix named Scrabbi (often called Moomoo for his tuxedo pattern) already live there.
This is how our weeklong visit went, and how all our animals learned to get along!
When we first brought the girls in, Buffy was immediately super excited and followed us all the way into my husband's old bedroom. Luci seemed curious, but Freyja, who has never gotten along well with dogs, immediately arched her back, flattened her ears, hissed and swiped in Buffy's direction. I knew we'd have a chore ahead of us, if the girls would even be allowed out of Luke's small bedroom the whole trip! I warned everyone they'd be darting out anyway, once they'd had enough of that room.
Meanwhile, Moomoo was watching carefully from the stairs, outside the room. He seemed far less enthusiastic than Buffy. When Moomoo had first moved home, he had come with my sister-in-law from Liverpool, and Luke's old cat Smokey was still queen of the house.
Smokey taught Buffy from puppyhood how to “speak cat” and even how to behave more like a cat. As a result, Buffy absolutely loves any cats –- any that are inside her house at least. Unfortunately, Smokey passed away at the age of 18 last year. Moomoo has now been king cat for nearly a year. I figured he was going to feel a bit threatened, especially because our little Luci looks, and acts, like she could be Smokey's daughter.
Our girls are both rescues and are already very happy, healthy, and well-adjusted. They have no problem with being in a new place –- no hiding, no scared behavior, just straight up exploring and claiming their own space. Since Luci is a very brave, bold and curious kitten, we decided we should try her with Buffy first. Buffy is a bit of an old lady these days, though you wouldn't know it by her attitude or energy. However, her eyesight is going a little bit, and I felt a little guilty because as soon as she saw Luci, she seemed to honestly believe her friend Smokey was back!
Luci couldn't go anywhere without Buffy following her, watching her intently, wagging her tail, and whining excitedly. Eventually, our fearless Luci hopped onto the floor and didn't seem bothered at all by this big dog following her around everywhere.
Next, we wanted to try Freyja with Moomoo. Freyja was a little scared when Luci came home, but she wasn't aggressive, she was submissive from the start. The lesson I learned from that was spoiling your cat might turn her into a giant wimp, scared of kittens half her size. However, Moomoo is about twice Freyja's size and with big vampire fangs. Just to be safe, for their first official introduction, I put Freyja in a big netted cat carrier, so she had a safe space and Moomoo could see her as well as she could see him.
As I predicted, Freyja immediately acted submissive to Moomoo. He did growl and hiss, but in a way that said, “Hey, I'm the boss here!” And Freyja's response was, “Yes, you're the boss!” I didn't let her out of the carrier on their first meeting, but it went very well.
On the next day, we didn't get a chance to properly introduce the girls and Moomoo –- because the girls escaped! They both darted out when I was entering the room, and of course immediately ran up the stairs to Moomoo territory. Surprisingly, Moomoo didn't really go on the aggressive. Freyja continued to make submissive chirps and, to my surprise, explore the room and not freak out about the much bigger cat. She never challenged him, but kept her distance if he hissed at her. Mostly he just sat there watching them curiously.
When Luci moved too closely towards him, though, our cheeky little girl hissed right back at him. We were worried about stressing him out, so I ended up collecting the girls and returning them to their room, but they kept up the escape act and had several more encounters with Moomoo. But there were no fights the whole week. If we had been staying longer, I am positive we could have let all three cats roam the house together.
We also tried introducing Freyja to Buffy. This was going to be the toughest introduction of all, given their attitudes towards the opposite species. Any time we had tried simply holding Freyja in the same room as Buffy, my chest got clawed and so did my shoulders, as she scrambled desperately up them to arch up and puff her tail out and hiss at the excited dog. We waited until nighttime, when Moomoo and the rest of the house was asleep, then brought Freyja into the room with Buffy.
Things were a little tense at first, but because there was so little going on around them both, Freyja was much more settled. She, like Luci, stayed on high ground at first, warily watching this big happy dog follow her every move. Eventually, she too jumped down to explore the ground. When Buffy got too close to her for her liking, Freyja would give her a “back off” hiss and swipe, but no direct attacks. Luckily, Buffy speaks cat, so she would respectfully back off, though she would keep watching and following Freyja.
Freyja did seem a bit nervous so we decided to bring her little sister in to help her calm down –- and it worked! At first, much to our surprise, since Luci tends to love Freyja SO much it ends up overwhelming and annoying her, Freyja leapt to defend Luci from this big curious dog.
Once she was assured that everything was okay and Buffy was a nice dog, she relaxed and we wound up being able to have all three of them hang out together in the living room with zero drama.
Buffy was actually very sad to see the girls go. But they are definitely happy to be home after their holiday.
Have you ever taken your cats with you on a trip? How did they do? Did they have to meet any other pets, and how did you handle the introductions? Tell us about it in the comments!
Laugh with us:
- 5 Ways I Irritate My Cats -- and I Can't Help Myself
- 5 Ways My Cats Have Taught Me to Stay Warm
- Texts from Mittens the Cat: Holiday Misfortunes Edition
Some further reading for the jet-setter cats and cat parents out there: